Coordinates : 34°09′21″N 108°56′47″E / 34.15583°N 108.94639°E / 34.15583; 108.94639
206 BC – 220 AD
A map of the
• 202–195 BC Emperor Gaozu
• 25–57 AD Emperor Guangwu
• 206–193 BC Xiao He
• 193–190 BC Cao Can
• 189–192 AD Dong Zhuo
• 208–220 AD Cao Cao
• 220 AD Cao Pi
• Establishment 206 BC
• Interruption of Han rule 9–23
• Abdication to Cao Wei 220 AD
50 BC est. (
• 100 AD est. (Eastern Han peak) 6,500,000 km2 (2,500,000 sq mi)
• 2 AD est. 57,671,400
CURRENCY Ban liang coins and wu zhu coins
PRECEDED BY SUCCEEDED BY
"Han" in ancient seal script (top left), Han-era clerical script
(top right), modern Traditional (bottom left), and Simplified (bottom
TRADITIONAL CHINESE 漢朝
SIMPLIFIED CHINESE 汉朝
HANYU PINYIN Hàn cháo
GWOYEU ROMATZYH Hann chaur
WADE–GILES Han4 ch'ao2
YALE ROMANIZATION Hon3 chiu4
JYUTPING Hon3 ciu4
TâI-Lô Hàn tiâu
MIDDLE CHINESE xàn ɖjew
BAXTER–SAGART (2014) *n̥ˤar-s m-taw
HISTORY OF CHINA
NEOLITHIC c. 8500 – c. 2070 BC
XIA DYNASTY c. 2070 – c. 1600 BC
SHANG DYNASTY c. 1600 – c. 1046 BC
ZHOU DYNASTY c. 1046 – 256 BC
Spring and Autumn
QIN DYNASTY 221–206 BC
HAN DYNASTY 206 BC – 220 AD
THREE KINGDOMS 220–280
WEI , SHU and WU
JIN DYNASTY 265–420
EASTERN JIN SIXTEEN KINGDOMS
NORTHERN AND SOUTHERN DYNASTIES 420–589
SUI DYNASTY 581–618
TANG DYNASTY 618–907
Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms 907–960 LIAO DYNASTY 907–1125
SONG DYNASTY 960–1279
SOUTHERN SONG JIN
YUAN DYNASTY 1271–1368
MING DYNASTY 1368–1644
QING DYNASTY 1644–1912
REPUBLIC OF CHINA 1912–1949
People's Republic of
Timeline of Chinese history
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The HAN DYNASTY (Chinese : 漢朝; pinyin : _Hàn cháo_) was the
second imperial dynasty of
The emperor was at the pinnacle of Han society . He presided over the
Han government but shared power with both the nobility and appointed
ministers who came largely from the scholarly gentry class . The Han
* 1 Etymology
* 2 History
* 3 Society and culture
* 3.1 Social class * 3.2 Marriage, gender, and kinship * 3.3 Education, literature, and philosophy * 3.4 Law and order * 3.5 Food * 3.6 Clothing * 3.7 Religion, cosmology, and metaphysics
* 4 Government
* 4.1 Central government * 4.2 Local government * 4.3 Kingdoms and marquessates * 4.4 Military
* 5 Economy
* 5.1 Variations in currency * 5.2 Taxation and property * 5.3 Private manufacture and government monopolies
* 6 Science, technology, and engineering
* 6.1 Writing materials * 6.2 Metallurgy and agriculture * 6.3 Structural engineering * 6.4 Mechanical and hydraulic engineering * 6.5 Mathematics * 6.6 Astronomy * 6.7 Cartography, ships, and vehicles * 6.8 Medicine
* 7 See also
* 8 References
* 8.1 Citations * 8.2 Sources
* 9 External links
According to the _
Records of the Grand Historian
At the beginning of the
To the north of
Despite the tribute and a negotiation between
Laoshang Chanyu (r.
174–160 BC) and Emperor Wen (r. 180–157 BC) to reopen border
markets, many of the
After Wu's reign, Han forces continued to prevail against the
In 121 BC, Han forces expelled the
Even before Han's expansion into Central Asia, diplomat
From roughly 115 to 60 BC, Han forces fought the
To pay for his military campaigns and colonial expansion, Emperor Wu nationalized several private industries. He created central government monopolies administered largely by former merchants . These monopolies included salt, iron , and liquor production, as well as bronze-coin currency . The liquor monopoly lasted only from 98 to 81 BC, and the salt and iron monopolies were eventually abolished in early Eastern Han. The issuing of coinage remained a central government monopoly throughout the rest of the Han dynasty. The government monopolies were eventually repealed when a political faction known as the Reformists gained greater influence in the court. The Reformists opposed the Modernist faction that had dominated court politics in Emperor Wu's reign and during the subsequent regency of Huo Guang (d. 68 BC). The Modernists argued for an aggressive and expansionary foreign policy supported by revenues from heavy government intervention in the private economy. The Reformists, however, overturned these policies, favoring a cautious, non-expansionary approach to foreign policy, frugal budget reform, and lower tax-rates imposed on private entrepreneurs.
WANG MANG\'S REIGN AND CIVIL WAR
Wang Zhengjun (71 BC–13 AD) was first empress, then empress dowager
, and finally grand empress dowager during the reigns of the Emperors
Yuan (r. 49–33 BC), Cheng (r. 33–7 BC), and Ai (r. 7–1 BC),
respectively. During this time, a succession of her male relatives
held the title of regent. Following the death of Ai, Wang Zhengjun's
When Ping died on 3 February 6 AD,
Ruzi Ying (d. 25 AD) was chosen as
the heir and
The flood dislodged thousands of peasant farmers, many of whom joined
roving bandit and rebel groups such as the
Red Eyebrows to survive.
Wang Mang's armies were incapable of quelling these enlarged rebel
groups. Eventually, an insurgent mob forced their way into the Weiyang
Palace and killed Wang Mang. A spade-shaped bronze coin issued
The Gengshi Emperor (r. 23–25 AD), a descendant of Emperor Jing (r.
157–141 BC), attempted to restore the
Under Guangwu's rule the Han
The period between the foundation of the
_ LEFT IMAGE: Western-Han painted ceramic jar decorated with raised reliefs of dragons , phoenixes , and taotie _ RIGHT IMAGE: Reverse side of a Western-Han bronze mirror with painted designs of a flower motif
The Eastern Han, also known as the Later Han, formally began on 5
August 25, when
During the turbulent reign of Wang Mang, Han lost control over the
Tarim Basin, which was conquered by the Northern
Ban Chao (d. AD 102) enlisted the aid of the
Kushan Empire ,
occupying the area of modern
Foreign travelers to Eastern-Han
Emperor Zhang\'s (r. 75–88 AD) reign came to be viewed by later Eastern Han scholars as the high point of the dynastic house. Subsequent reigns were increasingly marked by eunuch intervention in court politics and their involvement in the violent power struggles of the imperial consort clans . With the aid of the eunuch Zheng Zhong (d. 107 AD), Emperor He (r. 88–105 AD) had Empress Dowager Dou (d. 97 AD) put under house arrest and her clan stripped of power. This was in revenge for Dou's purging of the clan of his natural mother— Consort Liang —and then concealing her identity from him. After Emperor He's death, his wife Empress Deng Sui (d. 121 AD) managed state affairs as the regent empress dowager during a turbulent financial crisis and widespread Qiang rebellion that lasted from 107 to 118 AD.
When Empress Dowager Deng died, Emperor An (r. 106–125 AD) was
convinced by the accusations of the eunuchs Li Run (李閏) and Jiang
Jing (江京) that Deng and her family had planned to depose him. An
dismissed Deng's clan members from office, exiled them and forced many
to commit suicide. After An's death, his wife, Empress Dowager Yan
(d. 126 AD) placed the child
Marquess of Beixiang on the throne in an
attempt to retain power within her family. However, palace eunuch Sun
Cheng (d. 132 AD) masterminded a successful overthrow of her regime to
Emperor Shun of Han (r. 125–144 AD). Yan was placed under
house arrest, her relatives were either killed or exiled, and her
eunuch allies were slaughtered. The regent
Liang Ji (d. 159 AD),
Empress Liang Na (d. 150 AD), had the brother-in-law of
Consort Deng Mengnü (later empress) (d. 165 AD) killed after Deng
Mengnü resisted Liang Ji's attempts to control her. Afterward,
Emperor Huan employed eunuchs to depose Liang Ji, who was then forced
to commit suicide. These rammed earth ruins of a granary in
Hecang Fortress (Chinese: 河仓城； Pinyin: Hécāngchéng),
located ~11 km (7 miles) northeast of the Western-Han-era
Yumen Pass ,
were built during the
Students from the Imperial University organized a widespread student protest against the eunuchs of Emperor Huan's court. Huan further alienated the bureaucracy when he initiated grandiose construction projects and hosted thousands of concubines in his harem at a time of economic crisis. Palace eunuchs imprisoned the official Li Ying (李膺) and his associates from the Imperial University on a dubious charge of treason. In 167 AD, the Grand Commandant Dou Wu (d. 168 AD) convinced his son-in-law, Emperor Huan, to release them. However the emperor permanently barred Li Ying and his associates from serving in office, marking the beginning of the Partisan Prohibitions .
Following Huan's death, Dou Wu and the Grand Tutor Chen Fan (陳蕃) (d. 168 AD) attempted a coup d\'état against the eunuchs Hou Lan (d. 172 AD), Cao Jie (d. 181 AD), and Wang Fu (王甫). When the plot was uncovered, the eunuchs arrested Empress Dowager Dou (d. 172 AD) and Chen Fan. General Zhang Huan (張奐) favored the eunuchs. He and his troops confronted Dou Wu and his retainers at the palace gate where each side shouted accusations of treason against the other. When the retainers gradually deserted Dou Wu, he was forced to commit suicide.
Under Emperor Ling (r. 168–189 AD) the eunuchs had the partisan prohibitions renewed and expanded, while themselves auctioning off top government offices. Many affairs of state were entrusted to the eunuchs Zhao Zhong (d. 189 AD) and Zhang Rang (d. 189 AD) while Emperor Ling spent much of his time roleplaying with concubines and participating in military parades.
END OF THE HAN DYNASTY
Main article: End of the Han dynasty A Chinese crossbow mechanism with a buttplate from either the late Warring States Period or the early Han dynasty; made of bronze and inlaid with silver
The Partisan Prohibitions were repealed during the Yellow Turban
Rebellion and Five Pecks of Rice Rebellion in 184 AD, largely because
the court did not want to continue to alienate a significant portion
of the gentry class who might otherwise join the rebellions. The
Yellow Turbans and Five-Pecks-of-Rice adherents belonged to two
Daoist religious societies led by faith healers
Zhang Jue (d. 184 AD) and Zhang Lu (d. 216 AD), respectively. Zhang
Lu's rebellion, in modern northern
He Jin (d. 189 AD), half-brother to Empress He (d.
189 AD), plotted with
Yuan Shao (d. 202 AD) to overthrow the eunuchs
by having several generals march to the outskirts of the capital.
There, in a written petition to Empress He, they demanded the eunuchs'
execution. After a period of hesitation, Empress He consented. When
the eunuchs discovered this, however, they had her brother He Miao
(何苗) rescind the order. The eunuchs assassinated
He Jin on
September 22, 189 AD.
Yuan Shao then besieged Luoyang's Northern
Palace while his brother
Yuan Shu (d. 199 AD) besieged the Southern
Palace. On September 25 both palaces were breached and approximately
two thousand eunuchs were killed.
Zhang Rang had previously fled with
Emperor Shao (r. 189 AD) and his brother
Dong Zhuo (d. 192 AD) found the young emperor and his brother
wandering in the countryside. He escorted them safely back to the
capital and was made Minister of Works , taking control of
Dong was killed by his adopted son
Lü Bu (d. 198 AD) in a plot
hatched by Wang Yun (d. 192 AD). Emperor Xian fled from
195 AD to the ruins of Luoyang. Xian was persuaded by Cao Cao
(155–220 AD), then Governor of Yan Province in modern western
Yuan Shao challenged Cao Cao for control over the emperor. Yuan's power was greatly diminished after Cao defeated him at the Battle of Guandu in 200 AD. After Yuan died, Cao killed Yuan Shao's son Yuan Tan (173–205 AD), who had fought with his brothers over the family inheritance. His brothers Yuan Shang and Yuan Xi were killed in 207 AD by Gongsun Kang (d. 221 AD), who sent their heads to Cao Cao.
After Cao's defeat at the naval
Battle of Red Cliffs in 208 AD, China
was divided into three spheres of influence, with
Cao Cao dominating
Sun Quan (182–252 AD) dominating the south, and
SOCIETY AND CULTURE
Main article: Society and culture of the Han dynasty
Chinese nobility and Marquis Baocheng _ Two
Han-dynasty red-and-black lacquerwares , one a bowl, the other a tray;
usually only wealthy officials, nobles, and merchants could afford
domestic luxury items like lacquerwares, which were common commodities
produced by skilled artisans and craftsmen. LEFT: a late
Eastern Han (25–220 AD) Chinese tomb mural showing lively scenes of
a banquet (yanyin 宴飲), dance and music (wuyue 舞樂), acrobatics
(baixi 百戲), and wrestling (xiangbu 相撲), from the Dahuting Tomb
(Chinese: 打虎亭漢墓, Pinyin: Dahuting Han mu_), on the southern
bank of the Siuhe River in
In the hierarchical social order, the emperor was at the apex of Han
society and government. However the emperor was often a minor, ruled
over by a regent such as the empress dowager or one of her male
relatives. Ranked immediately below the emperor were the kings who
were of the same
Each successive rank gave its holder greater pensions and legal privileges. The highest rank, of full marquess , came with a state pension and a territorial fiefdom . Holders of the rank immediately below, that of ordinary marquess, received a pension, but had no territorial rule. Officials who served in government belonged to the wider commoner social class and were ranked just below nobles in social prestige. The highest government officials could be enfeoffed as marquesses. By the Eastern Han period, local elites of unattached scholars, teachers, students, and government officials began to identify themselves as members of a larger, nationwide gentry class with shared values and a commitment to mainstream scholarship. When the government became noticeably corrupt in mid-to-late Eastern Han, many gentrymen even considered the cultivation of morally grounded personal relationships more important than serving in public office.
The farmer , or specifically the small landowner-cultivator, was ranked just below scholars and officials in the social hierarchy. Other agricultural cultivators were of a lower status, such as tenants , wage laborers , and in rare cases slaves. Artisans and craftsmen had a legal and socioeconomic status between that of owner-cultivator farmers and common merchants . State-registered merchants, who were forced by law to wear white-colored clothes and pay high commercial taxes, were considered by the gentry as social parasites with a contemptible status. These were often petty shopkeepers of urban marketplaces; merchants such as industrialists and itinerant traders working between a network of cities could avoid registering as merchants and were often wealthier and more powerful than the vast majority of government officials. Wealthy landowners, such as nobles and officials, often provided lodging for retainers who provided valuable work or duties, sometimes including fighting bandits or riding into battle. Unlike slaves, retainers could come and go from their master's home as they pleased. Medical physicians , pig breeders, and butchers had a fairly high social status, while occultist diviners , runners, and messengers had low status.
MARRIAGE, GENDER, AND KINSHIP
See also: Women in Han
The Han-era family was patrilineal and typically had four to five nuclear family members living in one household. Multiple generations of extended family members did not occupy the same house, unlike families of later dynasties. According to Confucian family norms , various family members were treated with different levels of respect and intimacy. For example, there were different accepted time frames for mourning the death of a father versus a paternal uncle. Arranged marriages were normal, with the father's input on his offspring's spouse being considered more important than the mother's. Monogamous marriages were also normal, although nobles and high officials were wealthy enough to afford and support concubines as additional lovers. Under certain conditions dictated by custom, not law, both men and women were able to divorce their spouses and remarry. LEFT IMAGE: A Han pottery female servant in silk robes RIGHT IMAGE: A Han pottery female dancer in silk robes
Apart from the passing of noble titles or ranks, inheritance practices did not involve primogeniture ; each son received an equal share of the family property. Unlike the practice in later dynasties, the father usually sent his adult married sons away with their portions of the family fortune. Daughters received a portion of the family fortune through their marriage dowries , though this was usually much less than the shares of sons. A different distribution of the remainder could be specified in a will , but it is unclear how common this was.
Women were expected to obey the will of their father, then their husband, and then their adult son in old age. However, it is known from contemporary sources that there were many deviations to this rule, especially in regard to mothers over their sons, and empresses who ordered around and openly humiliated their fathers and brothers. Women were exempt from the annual corvée labor duties, but often engaged in a range of income-earning occupations aside from their domestic chores of cooking and cleaning.
The most common occupation for women was weaving clothes for the family, sale at market or for large textile enterprises that employed hundreds of women. Other women helped on their brothers' farms or became singers, dancers, sorceresses , respected medical physicians, and successful merchants who could afford their own silk clothes. Some women formed spinning collectives, aggregating the resources of several different families.
EDUCATION, LITERATURE, AND PHILOSOPHY
_ A fragment of the 'Stone Classics' (熹平石經); these
Five Classics installed during Emperor Ling\'s reign
along the roadside of the Imperial University (right outside
Some important texts were created and studied by scholars.
Philosophical works written by Yang Xiong (53 BC – 18 AD), Huan Tan
(43 BC – 28 AD),
Wang Chong (27–100 AD), and Wang Fu (78–163 AD)
questioned whether human nature was innately good or evil and posed
challenges to Dong's universal order. The _Records of the Grand
Historian _ by
Sima Tan (d. 110 BC) and his son
LAW AND ORDER
Han scholars such as Jia Yi (201–169 BC) portrayed the previous Qin dynasty as a brutal regime. However, archaeological evidence from Zhangjiashan and Shuihudi reveal that many of the statutes in the Han law code compiled by Chancellor Xiao He (d. 193 BC) were derived from Qin law.
Various cases for rape , physical abuse and murder were prosecuted in court. Women, although usually having fewer rights by custom, were allowed to level civil and criminal charges against men. While suspects were jailed, convicted criminals were never imprisoned. Instead, punishments were commonly monetary fines, periods of forced hard labor for convicts, and the penalty of death by beheading. Early Han punishments of torturous mutilation were borrowed from Qin law. A series of reforms abolished mutilation punishments with progressively less-severe beatings by the bastinado .
Acting as a judge in lawsuits was one of many duties of the county magistrate and Administrators of commanderies. Complex, high-profile or unresolved cases were often deferred to the Minister of Justice in the capital or even the emperor. In each Han county was several districts, each overseen by a chief of police . Order in the cities was maintained by government officers in the marketplaces and constables in the neighborhoods.
The most common staple crops consumed during Han were wheat, barley, foxtail millet , proso millet , rice, and beans . Commonly eaten fruits and vegetables included chestnuts, pears, plums, peaches, melons, apricots, strawberries, red bayberries , jujubes , calabash , bamboo shoots , mustard plant and taro . Domesticated animals that were also eaten included chickens, Mandarin ducks , geese, cows, sheep, pigs, camels and dogs (various types were bred specifically for food, while most were used as pets). Turtles and fish were taken from streams and lakes. Commonly hunted game, such as owl, pheasant, magpie, sika deer , and Chinese bamboo partridge were consumed. Seasonings included sugar, honey, salt and soy sauce . Beer and wine were regularly consumed.
The types of clothing worn and the materials used during the Han period depended upon social class. Wealthy folk could afford silk robes, skirts, socks, and mittens, coats made of badger or fox fur , duck plumes, and slippers with inlaid leather, pearls , and silk lining. Peasants commonly wore clothes made of hemp , wool , and ferret skins.
RELIGION, COSMOLOGY, AND METAPHYSICS
_ An Eastern-Han bronze statuette of a mythical chimera (qilin_), 1st century AD
Families throughout Han
In addition to his many other roles, the emperor acted as the highest priest in the land who made sacrifices to Heaven , the main deities known as the Five Powers , and the spirits (_shen_ 神) of mountains and rivers. It was believed that the three realms of Heaven, Earth, and Mankind were linked by natural cycles of yin and yang and the five phases . If the emperor did not behave according to proper ritual, ethics, and morals, he could disrupt the fine balance of these cosmological cycles and cause calamities such as earthquakes, floods, droughts, epidemics, and swarms of locusts. _ A rubbing of a Han pictorial stone showing an ancestral worship hall (citang_ 祠堂)
It was believed that immortality could be achieved if one reached the lands of the Queen Mother of the West or Mount Penglai . Han-era Daoists assembled into small groups of hermits who attempted to achieve immortality through breathing exercises, sexual techniques and use of medical elixirs . By the 2nd century AD, Daoists formed large hierarchical religious societies such as the Way of the Five Pecks of Rice . Its followers believed that the sage-philosopher Laozi (fl. 6th century BC) was a holy prophet who would offer salvation and good health if his devout followers would confess their sins , ban the worship of unclean gods who accepted meat sacrifices and chant sections of the _Daodejing _.
Main article: Government of the Han dynasty
A pottery model of a palace from a Han-dynasty tomb; the entrances to the emperor's palaces were strictly guarded by the Minister of the Guards; if it was found that a commoner, official, or noble entered without explicit permission via a tally system, the intruder was subject to execution.
In Han government, the emperor was the supreme judge and lawgiver, the commander-in-chief of the armed forces and sole designator of official nominees appointed to the top posts in central and local administrations; those who earned a 600-bushel salary-rank or higher . Theoretically, there were no limits to his power. However, state organs with competing interests and institutions such as the court conference (_tingyi_ 廷議)—where ministers were convened to reach majority consensus on an issue—pressured the emperor to accept the advice of his ministers on policy decisions. If the emperor rejected a court conference decision, he risked alienating his high ministers. Nevertheless, emperors sometimes did reject the majority opinion reached at court conferences.
Below the emperor were his cabinet members known as the Three Councillors of State (_San gong_ 三公). These were the Chancellor or Minister over the Masses (_Chengxiang_ 丞相 or _Da situ_ 大司徒), the Imperial Counselor or Excellency of Works (_Yushi dafu_ 御史大夫 or _Da sikong_ 大司空), and Grand Commandant or Grand Marshal (_Taiwei_ 太尉 or _Da sima_ 大司馬).
The Chancellor, whose title was changed to 'Minister over the Masses' in 8 BC, was chiefly responsible for drafting the government budget . The Chancellor's other duties included managing provincial registers for land and population, leading court conferences, acting as judge in lawsuits and recommending nominees for high office. He could appoint officials below the salary-rank of 600 bushels.
The Imperial Counselor's chief duty was to conduct disciplinary
procedures for officials. He shared similar duties with the
Chancellor, such as receiving annual provincial reports. However, when
his title was changed to Minister of Works in 8 BC, his chief duty
became oversight of public works projects. A scene of historic
paragons of filial piety conversing with one another, Chinese painted
artwork on a lacquered basketwork box, excavated from an Eastern-Han
tomb of what was the Chinese
The Grand Commandant, whose title was changed to Grand Marshal in 119 BC before reverting to Grand Commandant in 51 AD, was the irregularly posted commander of the military and then regent during the Western Han period. In the Eastern Han era he was chiefly a civil official who shared many of the same censorial powers as the other two Councillors of State.
Ranked below the Three Councillors of State were the Nine Ministers (_Jiu qing_ 九卿), who each headed a specialized ministry. The Minister of Ceremonies (_Taichang_ 太常) was the chief official in charge of religious rites, rituals, prayers and the maintenance of ancestral temples and altars. The Minister of the Household (_Guang lu xun_ 光祿勳) was in charge of the emperor's security within the palace grounds, external imperial parks and wherever the emperor made an outing by chariot. The Minister of the Guards (_Weiwei_ 衛尉) was responsible for securing and patrolling the walls, towers, and gates of the imperial palaces. The Minister Coachman (_Taipu_ 太僕) was responsible for the maintenance of imperial stables, horses, carriages and coach-houses for the emperor and his palace attendants, as well as the supply of horses for the armed forces. The Minister of Justice (_Tingwei_ 廷尉) was the chief official in charge of upholding, administering, and interpreting the law. The Minister Herald (_Da honglu_ 大鴻臚) was the chief official in charge of receiving honored guests at the imperial court, such as nobles and foreign ambassadors . The Minister of the Imperial Clan (_Zongzheng_ 宗正) oversaw the imperial court's interactions with the empire's nobility and extended imperial family, such as granting fiefs and titles. The Minister of Finance (_Da sinong_ 大司農) was the treasurer for the official bureaucracy and the armed forces who handled tax revenues and set standards for units of measurement . The Minister Steward (_Shaofu_ 少府) served the emperor exclusively, providing him with entertainment and amusements, proper food and clothing, medicine and physical care, valuables and equipment.
LEFT: a Chinese ceramic statue of a seated woman holding a
bronze mirror , Eastern Han period (25–220 AD),
The Han Empire, excluding kingdoms and marquessates, was divided, in descending order of size, into political units of provinces (_zhou_), commanderies (_jun_), and counties (_xian_). A county was divided into several districts , the latter composed of a group of hamlets , each containing about a hundred families.
The heads of provinces, whose official title was changed from Inspector to Governor and vice versa several times during Han, were responsible for inspecting several commandery-level and kingdom-level administrations. On the basis of their reports, the officials in these local administrations would be promoted, demoted, dismissed or prosecuted by the imperial court.
A governor could take various actions without permission from the imperial court. The lower-ranked inspector had executive powers only during times of crisis, such as raising militias across the commanderies under his jurisdiction to suppress a rebellion.
A commandery consisted of a group of counties, and was headed by an Administrator. He was the top civil and military leader of the commandery and handled defense, lawsuits, seasonal instructions to farmers and recommendations of nominees for office sent annually to the capital in a quota system first established by Emperor Wu. The head of a large county of about 10,000 households was called a Prefect, while the heads of smaller counties were called Chiefs, and both could be referred to as Magistrates . A Magistrate maintained law and order in his county, registered the populace for taxation, mobilized commoners for annual corvée duties, repaired schools and supervised public works.
KINGDOMS AND MARQUESSATES
Kings of the Han dynasty _ Late Western Han
(202 BC – 9 AD) or
Xin Dynasty (9–25 AD) wall murals showing men
and women dressed in
Hanfu _, with the Queen Mother of the West
dressed in _shenyi _, from a tomb in
Dongping County , Shandong
Kingdoms—roughly the size of commanderies —were ruled exclusively by the emperor's male relatives as semi-autonomous fiefdoms . Before 157 BC some kingdoms were ruled by non-relatives, granted to them in return for their services to Emperor Gaozu. The administration of each kingdom was very similar to that of the central government. Although the emperor appointed the Chancellor of each kingdom, kings appointed all the remaining civil officials in their fiefs.
However, in 145 BC, after several insurrections by the kings, Emperor Jing removed the kings' rights to appoint officials whose salaries were higher than 400 bushels . The Imperial Counselors and Nine Ministers (excluding the Minister Coachman) of every kingdom were abolished, although the Chancellor was still appointed by the central government.
With these reforms, kings were reduced to being nominal heads of their fiefs, gaining a personal income from only a portion of the taxes collected in their kingdom. Similarly, the officials in the administrative staff of a full marquess's fief were appointed by the central government. A marquess's Chancellor was ranked as the equivalent of a county Prefect. Like a king, the marquess collected a portion of the tax revenues in his fief as personal income. An Eastern-Han pottery soldier, with a now-faded coating of paint, is missing a weapon.
At the beginning of the Han dynasty, every male commoner aged twenty-three was liable for conscription into the military. The minimum age for the military draft was reduced to twenty after Emperor Zhao\'s (r. 87–74 BC) reign. Conscripted soldiers underwent one year of training and one year of service as non-professional soldiers. The year of training was served in one of three branches of the armed forces: infantry , cavalry or navy . The year of active service was served either on the frontier, in a king's court or under the Minister of the Guards in the capital. A small professional (paid) standing army was stationed near the capital.
During the Eastern Han, conscription could be avoided if one paid a commutable tax. The Eastern Han court favored the recruitment of a volunteer army . The volunteer army comprised the Southern Army (_Nanjun_ 南軍), while the standing army stationed in and near the capital was the Northern Army (_Beijun_ 北軍). Led by Colonels (_Xiaowei_ 校尉), the Northern Army consisted of five regiments, each composed of several thousand soldiers. When central authority collapsed after 189 AD, wealthy landowners, members of the aristocracy/nobility, and regional military-governors relied upon their retainers to act as their own personal troops (_buqu_ 部曲).
During times of war, the volunteer army was increased, and a much larger militia was raised across the country to supplement the Northern Army. In these circumstances, a General (_Jiangjun_ 將軍) led a division , which was divided into regiments led by Colonels and sometimes Majors (_Sima_ 司馬). Regiments were divided into companies and led by Captains. Platoons were the smallest units of soldiers.
Main article: Economy of the Han dynasty
VARIATIONS IN CURRENCY
_ A wuzhu_ (五銖) coin issued during the reign of Emperor Wu (r. 141–87 BC), 25.5 mm in diameter
In 144 BC Emperor Jing abolished private minting in favor of
central-government and commandery-level minting; he also introduced a
new coin. Emperor Wu introduced another in 120 BC, but a year later
he abandoned the _ban liangs_ entirely in favor of the _wuzhu _
(五銖) coin, weighing 3.2 g (0.11 oz). The _wuzhu_ became China's
standard coin until the
Since commandery-issued coins were often of inferior quality and lighter weight, the central government closed commandery mints and monopolized the issue of coinage in 113 BC. This Central government issuance of coinage was overseen by the Superintendent of Waterways and Parks , this duty being transferred to the Minister of Finance during Eastern Han.
TAXATION AND PROPERTY
Aside from the landowner's land tax paid in a portion of their crop
yield , the poll tax and property taxes were paid in coin cash. The
annual poll tax rate for adult men and women was 120 coins and 20
coins for minors. Merchants were required to pay a higher rate of 240
coins. The poll tax stimulated a money economy that necessitated the
minting of over 28,000,000,000 coins from 118 BC to 5 AD, an average
of 220,000,000 coins a year. _ LEFT IMAGE: Eastern-Han tomb
models of towers with dougong _ brackets supporting balconies,
1st–2nd century AD.
The widespread circulation of coin cash allowed successful merchants to invest money in land, empowering the very social class the government attempted to suppress through heavy commercial and property taxes. Emperor Wu even enacted laws which banned registered merchants from owning land, yet powerful merchants were able to avoid registration and own large tracts of land.
The small landowner-cultivators formed the majority of the Han tax base; this revenue was threatened during the latter half of Eastern Han when many peasants fell into debt and were forced to work as farming tenants for wealthy landlords . The Han government enacted reforms in order to keep small landowner-cultivators out of debt and on their own farms. These reforms included reducing taxes, temporary remissions of taxes, granting loans and providing landless peasants temporary lodging and work in agricultural colonies until they could recover from their debts.
In 168 BC, the land tax rate was reduced from one-fifteenth of a farming household's crop yield to one-thirtieth, and later to a one-hundredth of a crop yield for the last decades of the dynasty. The consequent loss of government revenue was compensated for by increasing property taxes.
The labor tax took the form of conscripted labor for one month per year, which was imposed upon male commoners aged fifteen to fifty-six. This could be avoided in Eastern Han with a commutable tax, since hired labor became more popular.
PRIVATE MANUFACTURE AND GOVERNMENT MONOPOLIES
A Han-dynasty iron Ji (halberd) and iron dagger
In the early Western Han, a wealthy salt or iron industrialist, whether a semi-autonomous king or wealthy merchant, could boast funds that rivaled the imperial treasury and amass a peasant workforce of over a thousand. This kept many peasants away from their farms and denied the government a significant portion of its land tax revenue. To eliminate the influence of such private entrepreneurs, Emperor Wu nationalized the salt and iron industries in 117 BC and allowed many of the former industrialists to become officials administering the monopolies. By Eastern Han times, the central government monopolies were repealed in favor of production by commandery and county administrations, as well as private businessmen.
SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, AND ENGINEERING
Science and technology of the Han dynasty
In the 1st millennium BC, typical ancient Chinese writing materials were bronzewares , animal bones , and bamboo slips or wooden boards. By the beginning of the Han dynasty, the chief writing materials were clay tablets , silk cloth, and rolled scrolls made from bamboo strips sewn together with hempen string; these were passed through drilled holes and secured with clay stamps.
The oldest known Chinese piece of hard, hempen wrapping paper dates
to the 2nd century BC. The standard papermaking process was invented
Cai Lun (50–121 AD) in 105 AD. The oldest known surviving piece
of paper with writing on it was found in the ruins of a Han watchtower
that had been abandoned in 110 AD, in Inner
METALLURGY AND AGRICULTURE
Evidence suggests that blast furnaces , that convert raw iron ore
into pig iron , which can be remelted in a cupola furnace to produce
cast iron by means of a cold blast and hot blast , were operational in
The Han-era Chinese used bronze and iron to make a range of weapons, culinary tools, carpenters' tools and domestic wares. A significant product of these improved iron-smelting techniques was the manufacture of new agricultural tools. The three-legged iron seed drill , invented by the 2nd century BC, enabled farmers to carefully plant crops in rows instead of casting seeds out by hand . The heavy moldboard iron plow , also invented during the Han dynasty, required only one man to control it, two oxen to pull it. It had three plowshares , a seed box for the drills, a tool which turned down the soil and could sow roughly 45,730 m2 (11.3 acres) of land in a single day.
To protect crops from wind and drought, the Grain Intendant Zhao Guo (趙過) created the alternating fields system (_daitianfa_ 代田法) during Emperor Wu's reign. This system switched the positions of furrows and ridges between growing seasons. Once experiments with this system yielded successful results, the government officially sponsored it and encouraged peasants to use it. Han farmers also used the pit field system (_aotian_ 凹田) for growing crops, which involved heavily fertilized pits that did not require plows or oxen and could be placed on sloping terrain. In southern and small parts of central Han-era China, paddy fields were chiefly used to grow rice, while farmers along the Huai River used transplantation methods of rice production.
_ A stone-carved pillar-gate, or que_ (闕) , 6 m (20 ft) in
total height, located at the tomb of Gao Yi in Ya\'an , Sichuan
Though Han wooden structures decayed, some Han-dynasty ruins made of
brick, stone, and rammed earth remain intact. This includes stone
pillar-gates, brick tomb chambers, rammed-earth city walls ,
rammed-earth and brick beacon towers, rammed-earth sections of the
Great Wall , rammed-earth platforms where elevated halls once stood,
and two rammed-earth castles in
The courtyard house is the most common type of home portrayed in Han
artwork. Ceramic architectural models of buildings , like houses and
towers, were found in Han tombs, perhaps to provide lodging for the
dead in the afterlife. These provide valuable clues about lost wooden
architecture. The artistic designs found on ceramic roof tiles of
tower models are in some cases exact matches to Han roof tiles found
at archaeological sites. An Eastern-Han vaulted tomb chamber at
Over ten Han-era underground tombs have been found, many of them featuring archways , vaulted chambers, and domed roofs. Underground vaults and domes did not require buttress supports since they were held in place by earthen pits. The use of brick vaults and domes in aboveground Han structures is unknown.
From Han literary sources, it is known that wooden-trestle beam
bridges , arch bridges , simple suspension bridges , and floating
pontoon bridges existed in Han China. However, there are only two
known references to arch bridges in Han literature, and only a single
Han relief sculpture in
Underground mine shafts , some reaching depths over 100 metres (330 ft), were created for the extraction of metal ores. Borehole drilling and derricks were used to lift brine to iron pans where it was distilled into salt. The distillation furnaces were heated by natural gas funneled to the surface through bamboo pipelines . Dangerous amounts of additional gas were siphoned off via carburetor chambers and exhaust pipes .
MECHANICAL AND HYDRAULIC ENGINEERING
A Han-dynasty pottery model of two men operating a winnowing machine with a crank handle and a tilt hammer used to pound grain.
Chinese scholars and officials traditionally considered scientific and engineering pursuits to be the domain of artisans and craftsmen (_gongren_ 工人), far beneath the ideal Confucian literary gentleman. Accordingly, evidence of Han-era mechanical engineering comes largely from the choice observational writings of sometimes disinterested Confucian scholars. Professional artisan-engineers (_jiang_ 匠) did not leave behind detailed records of their work. Han scholars, who often had little or no expertise in mechanical engineering, sometimes provided insufficient information on the various technologies they described. Nevertheless, some Han literary sources provide crucial information. For example, in 15 BC the philosopher Yang Xiong described the invention of the belt drive for a quilling machine, which was of great importance to early textile manufacturing. The inventions of the artisan-engineer Ding Huan (丁緩) are mentioned in the _Miscellaneous Notes on the Western Capital_. Around 180 AD, Ding created a manually operated rotary fan used for air conditioning within palace buildings. Ding also used gimbals as pivotal supports for one of his incense burners and invented the world's first known zoetrope lamp.
Modern archaeology has led to the discovery of Han artwork portraying
inventions which were otherwise absent in Han literary sources. As
observed in Han miniature tomb models, but not in literary sources,
the crank handle was used to operate the fans of winnowing machines
that separated grain from chaff . The odometer cart, invented during
Han, measured journey lengths, using mechanical figures banging drums
and gongs to indicate each distance traveled. This invention is
depicted in Han artwork by the 2nd century AD, yet detailed written
descriptions were not offered until the 3rd century AD. Modern
archaeologists have also unearthed specimens of devices used during
the Han dynasty, for example a pair of sliding metal calipers used by
craftsmen for making minute measurements. These calipers contain
inscriptions of the exact day and year they were manufactured. These
tools are not mentioned in any Han literary sources. A modern
The waterwheel appeared in Chinese records during the Han. As
Huan Tan in about 20 AD, they were used to turn gears
that lifted iron trip hammers , and were used in pounding, threshing
and polishing grain. However, there is no sufficient evidence for the
The armillary sphere , a three-dimensional representation of the
movements in the celestial sphere , was invented in Han
Three Han mathematical treatises still exist. These are the _Book on Numbers and Computation_ (_Suan shu shu_ 算數書) , the _Arithmetical Classic of the Gnomon and the Circular Paths of Heaven_ (_Zhoubi Suanjing_ 周髀算經) and the _Nine Chapters on the Mathematical Art_ (_Jiu zhang suan shu_ 九章算術) . Han-era mathematical achievements include solving problems with right-angle triangles , square roots , cube roots , and matrix methods , finding more accurate approximations for pi , providing mathematical proof of the Pythagorean theorem , use of the decimal fraction , Gaussian elimination to solve linear equations , and continued fractions to find the roots of equations .
One of the Han's greatest mathematical advancements was the world's
first use of negative numbers . Negative numbers first appeared in the
_Nine Chapters on the Mathematical Art_ as black counting rods , where
positive numbers were represented by red counting rods. Negative
numbers were also used by the Greek mathematician
The Han applied mathematics to various diverse disciplines. In musical tuning , Jing Fang (78–37 BC) realized that 53 perfect fifths was approximate to 31 octaves while creating a musical scale of 60 tones, calculating the difference at 177147⁄176776 (the same value of 53 equal temperament discovered by the German mathematician Nicholas Mercator , i.e. 353/284).
Mathematics were essential in drafting the astronomical calendar , a lunisolar calendar that used the Sun and Moon as time-markers throughout the year. Use of the ancient Sifen calendar (古四分曆), which measured the tropical year at 3651⁄4 days, was replaced in 104 BC with the Taichu calendar (太初曆) that measured the tropical year at 365385⁄1539 days and the lunar month at 2943⁄81 days. However, Emperor Zhang later reinstated the Sifen calendar.
Han Chinese astronomers made star catalogues and detailed records of comets that appeared in the night sky, including recording the 12 BC appearance of the comet now known as Halley\'s comet .
Han-era astronomers adopted a geocentric model of the universe, theorizing that it was shaped like a sphere surrounding the earth in the center. They assumed that the Sun, Moon, and planets were spherical and not disc-shaped. They also thought that the illumination of the Moon and planets was caused by sunlight , that lunar eclipses occurred when the Earth obstructed sunlight falling onto the Moon, and that a solar eclipse occurred when the Moon obstructed sunlight from reaching the Earth. Although others disagreed with his model, Wang Chong accurately described the water cycle of the evaporation of water into clouds.
CARTOGRAPHY, SHIPS, AND VEHICLES
An early Western-Han silk map found in tomb 3 of
Evidence found in Chinese literature, and archaeological evidence,
show that cartography existed in
Although the use of the graduated scale and grid reference for maps
was not thoroughly described until the published work of Pei Xiu
(224–271 AD), there is evidence that in the early 2nd century AD,
The Han-era Chinese sailed in a variety of ships differing from those of previous eras, such as the tower ship . The _junk_ design was developed and realized during Han. Junks featured a square-ended bow and stern , a flat-bottomed hull or carvel-shaped hull with no keel or sternpost , and solid transverse bulkheads in the place of structural ribs found in Western vessels. Moreover, Han ships were the first in the world to be steered using a rudder at the stern, in contrast to the simpler steering oar used for riverine transport, allowing them to sail on the high seas.
Although ox-carts and chariots were previously used in China, the
wheelbarrow was first used in Han
Traditional Chinese medicine The physical
exercise chart; a painting on silk depicting the practice of Qigong
Taiji; unearthed in 1973 in
Han-era medical physicians believed that the human body was subject to the same forces of nature that governed the greater universe, namely the cosmological cycles of yin and yang and the five phases . Each organ of the body was associated with a particular phase. Illness was viewed as a sign that _qi _ or "vital energy" channels leading to a certain organ had been disrupted. Thus, Han-era physicians prescribed medicine that was believed to counteract this imbalance. For example, since the wood phase was believed to promote the fire phase, medicinal ingredients associated with the wood phase could be used to heal an organ associated with the fire phase. Besides dieting, Han physicians also prescribed moxibustion , acupuncture , and calisthenics as methods of maintaining one's health. When surgery was performed by the physician Hua Tuo (d. 208 AD), he used anesthesia to numb his patients' pain and prescribed a rubbing ointment that allegedly sped the process of healing surgical wounds. Whereas the physician Zhang Zhongjing (c. 150–c. 219 AD) is known to have written the _ Shanghan lun _ ("Dissertation on Typhoid Fever"), it is thought that both he and Hua Tuo collaborated in compiling the _ Shennong Ben Cao Jing _ medical text.
* Han Emperors family tree
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* ^ Bielenstein (1980) , p. 144; Wang (1949) , pp. 173–177.
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* ^ Wang (1949) , pp. 147–148; Bielenstein (1980) , pp. 8–9,
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* ^ de Crespigny (2007) , p. 1222; Wang (1949) , p. 151;
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* ^ de Crespigny (2007) , p. 1222; Bielenstein (1980) , pp.
* ^ de Crespigny (2007) , p. 1223; Bielenstein (1980) , p. 31.
* ^ de Crespigny (2007) , p. 1223; Bielenstein (1980) , pp.
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* ^ Ebrey (1999) , p. 75; Ebrey (1986) , pp. 619–621.
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* ^ Nishijima (1986) , p. 599; de Crespigny (2007) , pp. 564–565.
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(2002) , pp. 21–22.
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* Nelson, Howard (1974), "Chinese maps: an exhibition at the British
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